Case Study: United breaks guitars

In one of our last posts we have discussed how a bad online reputation can seriously damage a business. Today we will show you how a creative (and disgruntled) individual used social media to pay back on the poor service he received from an airline.

In 2008, Canadian musician Dave Carrol was preparing to fly to the US city of Omaha with United Airlines from Chicago O’Hare. The singer checked-in his $3,500 guitar, informing the staff of United about its value. Once onboard the aircraft, he and fellow passengers saw baggage-handling crew throwing his and his band’s guitars on the tarmac. Taylor’s guitar was broken at the neck as a consequence. All the requests for reimbursement sent by Carrol to United Airlines in the following nine months were turned down.

The singer then recorded a funny protest song with his band, The Sons of Maxwell, in which he sang ‘I should have flown with someone else, or gone by car, ’cause United breaks guitars’. Once uploaded on You Tube in July 2009, the video reached 150,000 viewers on the first day and 500,000 in the following three. Half a million users had seen the video by July, 9,5 million by mid-August 2009, and 10 million by February 2011. The video of ‘United breaks guitars’ went viral and Carrol was invited to several talk shows.



United Airlines immediately called Carrol offering him compensation, but the damage to the company’s reputation couldn’t be undone. The Times newspaper reported that within 4 days of the video being posted online, United Airline’s stock price fell 10%, costing stockholders about $180 million in value.

Carrol’s story is a bright example of how social media have somewhat democratized our society, empowering people to contrast unfair decisions by companies. It is therefore a mistake for any business to ignore the online buzz created by user-generated content.

Strategic Communicationsmore about this training course. has created a half day training course which aims to effectively deal with PR crisis generated by blog, social media posts and negative newspaper coverage. The first of its kind in Malta, the training course was delivered to managers from the insurance, freight forwarding and document archiving sectors.

Send an email to if you would like to know more about this course. 

Share Button



Subscribe to our newsletter to keep yourself up to date with the latest trends in advertising, marketing, public relations and social media.

Click Here to Subscribe >


Strategic Communications Ltd
Apt 432, Block 4, Ta Monita Residence
Triq il-Bajja

M: (+356) 9901 0072




Copyright 2009 - 2020 Strategic Communications Ltd